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Data from: The assembly and importance of a novel ecosystem: the ant community of coffee farms in Puerto Rico

Citation

Vandermeer, John (2021), Data from: The assembly and importance of a novel ecosystem: the ant community of coffee farms in Puerto Rico, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.8sf7m0ck5

Abstract

Agricultural ecosystems are, by their very nature novel, and, by definition, the more general biodiversity associated with them must likewise constitute a novel community. Here we examine the community of arboreally foraging ants in the coffee agroecosystem of Puerto Rico.  We surveyed 20 coffee plants in 25 farms three times in a period of one year. We also conducted a more spatially explicit sampling in two of the farms and conducted a species interaction study between the two most abundant species, Wasmannia auropunctata and Solenopsis invicta in the laboratory. We find that the majority of the most common species are well-known invasive ants and that there is a highly variable pattern of dominance that varies considerably over the main coffee producing region of Puerto Rico, suggesting an unusual modality of community structure. The distribution pattern of the two most common species, W. auropunctata and S. invicta, suggests strong competitive exclusion. However, they also have opposite relationships with the percent of shade cover, with W. auropunctata showing a positive relationship with shade, while S. invicta has a negative relationship. The spatial distribution of these two dominant species in the two more intensively studied farms suggests that young colonies of S. invicta can displace W. auropunctata. Laboratory experiments confirm this. These results suggest the existence of a spatially explicit  intransitive loop that includes these two species and is mediated by a phorid fly parasitoid that attack the larger workers of S. invicta. In addition to the elaboration of the nature and extent of this novel ant community, we speculate on the possibilities of its active inclusion as part of a biological control system dealing with several coffee pests, including one of the ants itself, W. auropunctata.

Methods

Field collected in coffee farms in Puerto Rico

Usage Notes

Data are self explanitory in an excel workbook.

Funding

United States Department of Agriculture, Award: NIFA/USDA 2017-67019-26292, and NIFA/USDA 2018-67030-28239.